Terrence Howard is hitting his stride. The 13-year Hollywood veteran gave a breakout performance in 2004 as the temperate-to-a-fault TV director in the word-of-mouth hit Crash. He was then acclaimed for his turn as a Memphis pimp in the Sundance favorite Hustle & Flow and as a murderous bootlegger in the Prohibition-era musical Idlewild. The 36-year-old Howard talks to O about the good and bad of making it big.

O: Is it true that you love interviews but hate photo shoots?

TH: Yeah, interviews are therapy. You get to learn about yourself and see whether you have the courage to be honest about who you are. But I'm very uncomfortable in front of a camera. I feel like I'm being watched, and I'm trying to be natural, as if no one's watching. It's false, and I don't like it, but I never let it cripple me.

O: So how long will you keep working with cameras, then?

TH: I won't be an actor all my life. This is something I'm doing now, but there are other things calling me. And there are many ways to provide for your family.

O: Still, you seemed to have this one nailed. What's the best part of your success?

TH: Meeting Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne. I get to talk to these brilliant people who overcame the obstacles of racism, outright racism, when outlandish acts of prejudice and bigotry were commonplace. They stood the test of fire and are unsinged. You can't even smell smoke on their clothing.

O: You seem to be in a really good place.

TH: I hope I am! [His cell phone rings.] It's my therapist. Calling just in time.


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